In a table-top pandemic exercise at Johns Hopkins University last year, a pathogen based on the emerging Nipah virus was released by fictional extremists, killing 150 million people.
A less apocalyptic scenario mapped out by a blue-ribbon U.S. panel envisioned Nipah being dispersed by terrorists and claiming over 6,000 American lives.
Scientists from Canada’s National Microbiology Laboratory (NML) have also said the highly lethal bug is a potential bio-weapon.
But this March that same lab shipped samples of the henipavirus family and of Ebola to China, which has long been suspected of running a secretive biological warfare (BW) program.
China strongly denies it makes germ weapons, and Canadian officials say the shipment was part of its efforts to support public-health research worldwide. Sharing of such samples internationally is relatively standard practice.
But some experts are raising questions about the March transfer, which appears to be at the centre of a shadowy RCMP investigation and dismissal of a top scientist at the Winnipeg-based NML.
“I would say this Canadian ‘contribution’ might likely be counterproductive,” said Dany Shoham, a biological and chemical warfare expert at Israel’s Bar-Ilan University. “I think the Chinese activities … are highly suspicious, in terms of exploring (at least) those viruses as BW agents. “
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